The group of potential free agents at left tackle --- which could be a spot where the Seahawks may want to make some additions --- got a little bigger on Wednesday.
The free agent market got a little more plentiful Wednesday at a position where the Seahawks could be buyers — left tackle.
But as is often the case with free agents (recall the oft-stated NFL maxim that the best players never become free agents) there are lots of extenuating circumstances.
What specifically happened Wednesday is that the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars each declined to pick up contract options on their current left tackles — Ryan Clady and Kelvin Beachum, respectively.
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That means each will become unrestricted free agents on March 9 unless they work out new deals with their current teams before then (teams can always re-sign their own players) and would be available for the Seahawks to sign.
There are reasons, though, why the current teams of each player felt compelled not to guarantee they will stay in the fold that could also cause the Seahawks’ pause in pursuing them.
Clady, who played at Boise State and then with Denver, will be 31 next September and has played just 27 of a possible 64 games since the start of the 2013 season due to injuries — including just nine games and eight starts last year with the Jets before going down with a shoulder injury.
Beachum, 27, tore an ACL in 2015 while playing with the Steelers and became a free agent following the season with the Seahawks among the teams said at the time interested in signing him (he was reported as visiting Seattle).
Instead, Beachum signed with the Jaguars, getting what was officially a five-year, $45 million contract but which included annual options for the final four years. Beachum rebounded to play in 15 games last season for the Jaguars he also sat out the Wednesday practice of each week during the second half of the season due to knee pain and also missed one game due to a concussion and Jacksonville decided not to pick up an option that would have guaranteed him an additional $18 million.
Of the two, Beachum would seem the more attractive candidate due to his age and an injury history not quite as extensive as that of Clady’s.
And given that this is not considered an overly strong or deep potential corps of free agents, Clady and Beachum will undoubtedly draw interest if they do become free and clear on March 9 and you’d figure the Seahawks would take a look (consider that NFL.com does not list any left tackles among its top 25 potential free agents and the player who may be the best one, Andrew Whitworth of the Bengals, is 35 and has said he hopes to get a new deal done to stay in Cincinnati).
The Seahawks ended the season with rookie George Fant at left tackle as he started the final nine regular season games and both in the post-season, taking over after Bradley Sowell was injured and then keeping the job even after Sowell returned.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said in his season-ending press conference that he liked the progress of Fant and thinks he could make significant improvement from year one to year two. But he also said the team will look to add competition — and regardless, the Seahawks will have to add depth at left tackle with Sowell also due to be a free agent and it being unclear if he will return.
“George made a big difference,” Carroll said after the season. “We had no idea what we had there. We were just hoping and he made a big impact on us. Bradley Sowell helped us early on when we needed then as the opportunity be competitive on the other side, we took a shot at that. We’re just trying to get better and if we have to make some moves we will, but we would like to see some continuity be really important. I can’t say it’s the ultimate thing that’s important, because we want to get really skilled and really tough and smart, but continuity is a factor in there. We’ll see if that’s the issue. We didn’t know it was going to happen the way it did because we didn’t know what George was going to bring.”
In other words, the Seahawks are optimistic about Fant’s future, but can also be expected to scour all available options to improve the position, while understanding that can be difficult to do in free agency.
Clady and Beachum, though, could at least add to those options, as could another veteran with a familiar name — Russell Okung.
Okung could become a free agent if Denver does not exercise an option to pick up the final four years and $48 million on his contract by March 8. Okung signed that deal with Denver a year ago after playing from 2010-15 with the Seahawks and then entering free agency, where he served as his own agent.